Bush defends Matrix payments

Premier
McKeeva Bush has insisted that payments to Matrix subcontractors were closely
scrutinised by his Ministry of Finance, in response to allegations that the
government overpaid contractors.

He
said that the ministry had met with the local owner of the scrap metal company,
Billy Bodden, and with Andrew McLaughlin, a company director, to “obtain an understanding
of the debts that were owed by Matrix”.

The
Canadian co-owner of the company, Bruce Young, told the Caymanian Compass last
week that he felt he should have had an opportunity to vet the invoices, saying
people were “coming out of the woodwork” looking for payments and making up
false invoices.

However,
Mr. Bush said the subcontractors who were paid had handed over invoices that
the local Matrix owner confirmed were owed to the workers.

“[T]he
government has scrutinised requests for payment in a diligent and careful
manner before payments were indeed made. Furthermore… some requests for
payment were actually declined,” Mr. Bush said. “The government has acted on
good conscience and performed due diligence appropriately.”

He
said the Ministry of Finance had obtained copies of Matrix’s cheque registers
and accounts payable aging summary as of January 2008 to determine what had
been paid and what was owed by Matrix.

Mr.
Bush, speaking in the Legislative Assembly following his budget speech on
Tuesday, said that where there were discrepancies between invoice balances
provided by Matrix and by subcontractors, “both parties were consulted further,
balances were agreed and the invoice balances were adjusted accordingly.”

The
government paid 19 sub-contractors a total of $280,533.45 in April, an amount
that the contractors said they were owed by the scrap metal company. The
government was not legally bound to make any payments to the subcontractors
because they had made private contracts with Matrix.

Mr.
Young had said he did not know one of the sub-contractors, David Lyons, or what
work he had done for Matrix. Mr. Lyons, who is serving a prison sentence for
gun smuggling in the United States, was paid $17,245 by the government based on
invoices he had supplied in relation to work he did for Matrix.

The
premier said the Ministry of Finance spoke with Mr. Lyons’ parents, who said
their son confirmed an invoice for $20,525 was outstanding. Records showed that
Matrix had paid Mr. Lyons US$4,000, equivalent to CI$3,280, in October 2007, so
the government paid him the remaining $17,245.

“Regardless
of the fact that Mr. Lyons is currently in prison, as evidenced by the
[CI$3,280] payment to Mr. Lyons by Matrix on 11 October, 2007, Mr. Lyons did
provide trucking services to Matrix, and Matrix acknowledged the services that
Mr. Lyons provided by writing him a cheque for US$4,000,” the premier said.

“Mr.
Lyons is entitled to be paid for the balance of the cost of the trucking
services that he provided before he was incarcerated.”

Mr.
Bush, who is also minister for finance, acknowledged that the government had
not paid all the invoices that had been submitted by subcontractors “as the
ministry discovered that either they were previously paid by Matrix or they
were not directly related to the removal of scrap metal from the landfill or
that contact could not be made with the subcontractor in order to verify the
amounts outstanding.”

These
included a CI$10,679 invoice from a local law firm for legal fees for
processing Matrix’s work permit applications. “The ministry felt that the legal
fees of Matrix were not directly related to the removal of scrap and therefore
were not paid,” Mr. Bush said.

Another
$550 invoice from a quantity surveyor for estimating the amount of cargo loaded
on barges was not paid because the surveyor company indicated the invoice had already
been paid. An invoice from a subcontractor for $2,100 for welding work on an
excavator was also not paid because the individual could not be contacted.

The
premier said there had been other invoices from subcontractors who stated that
amounts were still outstanding. “Although the Matrix representatives cannot
confirm that these invoices are legitimate as the invoices are not in Matrix’s
possession, the government is requesting copies of delivery slips and
affidavits to verify that these sub-contractors did indeed provide services for
Matrix,” he said.